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by Nancy Grindle Correspondent · August 10th, 2017


At the Marion City Council work session held on Tuesday, August 1, City Manager Lon Pluckhahn presented information about an Uptown Redevelopment Plan. The following is a review of the main points.

His information included the history of the Central Corridor Plan of 2009, Imagine8 from 2009 and the Uptown Plan of 2010. It also included current and future goals for the City of Marion, the Marion Square Mall, the library and a possible parking structure.

Goals for the city are concentrated in a number of areas. They include improving the transportation system, Brownfield remediation, and opportunities for redevelopment.

Under redevelopment are items specific to the proposed new library, the existing library site, the mall area and what Pluckhahn called "the block between."

Financial aspects were also covered for the various areas, including the tax base impact and uptown benefits.

Pluckhahn's last topic focused on key decisions which will have to be made.

Under the goal of improving the transportation system were the following topics:

Walkability, including sidewalk widths and lighting

Aesthetics

Safety (traffic flow, signs, lights, wayfinding, updating systems)

Provision for alternative ways to travel (biking, buses)

Access control for vehicles

Brownfield remediation under the Iowa Code, Chapter 15, Section 291, refers to "an abandoned, idled or underutilized industrial or commercial facility where expansion or redevelopment is complicated by real or perceived environmental contamination."

The presentation showed the following possibilities under this remediation: EPA funding, acquisition, direct remediation, redevelopment with remediation, and the use of outside resources, such as Brownfield tax credits.

Among the opportunities for redevelopment are larger parcels and surplus property. Historic preservation was also a topic, as was tax base creation.

In May 2014, a facility needs assessment for the library indicated that a 65,000-square-feet area is needed. A cost/benefit analysis in July 2015 provided three possible options: expanding the existing library, building a new structure (library only) or creating a mixed-use facility. The last choice was selected.

In September 2014, Ryan Companies was chosen and the initial focus was on the lot between the current library and City Hall. Then it was discovered that the Marion Square Mall would become available.

It was proposed to use that site, which would become multi-use: the library area was originally expected to be 46,000 square feet, 74 residential units would be built, and 10,000 square feet would be retail space.

The existing library site still is

to have commercial, retail and residential space, while the proposal for "the block between" is that it will become a parking structure with more than 350 spaces, a skywalk to the library, and possible retail area.

The positive impacts include more retail area, a landing zone, higher taxable value and more parking in the area.

Financially, the Marion Square Mall property proposal is for approximately $4 million to $5 million for retail or commercial, $17 million for residential, and $13 million to $14 million for the library. In contrast, the existing library site would have $6.3 million for commercial and retail, and $17.5 million for residential.

The parking structure is described as being a two-phase undertaking. Phase 1 includes two floors and retail, with 224 parking spaces ($6 million to $7 million), a skywalk at a cost of $1.25 million, and retail ($2.2 million).

Phase 2 would add a third floor and 150 additional spaces of parking ($4 million).

Currently there are just two taxable parcels for a total of just over $65,000 in taxes per year, while the projected taxable parcels would increase to three and a total of $650,000 per year, a substantial amount. Projected exempt taxes are estimated at $104,000.

Uptown benefits would include more parking, plaza and park upgrades, Brownfield remediation, more density in the area, spaces for tenants, and the library would be integrated into the area.

Among the decisions the city will face are whether 11th Street should stay or go, parking ownership (city or nonprofit options, what about the retail portion?), and project phasing with regard to the parking, Marion Square and the current library.
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